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Girl’s $75 can be spent on much cuter pair of boots

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BY CIENA LESHLEY

I will never forget Aug. 29, 2012. On that day, I walked out to my car in a downtown parking lot, and saw that it was accessorized with a fresh pair of boots and a friendly little notice. “DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MOVE THIS CAR” was big and bold on a neon orange sticker stuck to my window. I looked around me and saw exactly what I saw when I parked in the parking lot a few hours earlier: a pay machine with a nasty trash bag over it. As I surveyed the scene, I did observe one difference: there was an attendant collecting money.

When I arrived at the parking lot at 3:40 that day, there had been no sign of life. Plenty of cars were parked there, sure, but there was no working pay machine and no attendant. I stood outside of my car looking for a sign of what to do for 10 minutes, but with no luck, I left my car under the assumption that any reasonable person would realize I had been unable to pay. Unfortunately, the ability to reason is not an essential quality for a parking attendant.

Instead, the case was that I was a 17-year-old girl, stranded downtown at 8:30 p.m., and my phone had just enough battery life to call my mom and the boot company. The boot man arrived in less than 10 minutes and told me to pay my ransom. I explained to him the situation, but either from a lack of understanding due to my frantic crying or from a lack of a heart, this man abducted my $75 and then generously allowed me to drive my own car. Luckily enough, after many phone calls, the boot company realized that I was wrongly booted and refunded my money, but most people don’t encounter such generosity.

Private companies that own the parking lot or parking deck hire the mercenary companies who patrol the parking spaces and boot cars. The city receives no revenue from these private parking companies and has no power to regulate them, which has caused some people to believe booting has gotten out of hand and become predatory.

After talking to people about my own booting experience, I learned I’m not the only one whose car has been wrongly booted. Many people face the boot man even after paying for their parking (their ticket didn’t print, wasn’t facing the right way, etc.), and some people have even been booted because the boot man believed they left and came back without buying a new ticket, regardless of whether or not they actually did.

The funny thing about booting in Atlanta is that no Georgia law covers it. This lack of legislation makes it difficult for citizens to fight the boot in court. Websites urging people to call the cops if your car has been wrongly booted are popping up left and right. Fighttheboot.blogspot.com is a forum that allows people to provide advice about dealing with these boots.

People who are against car booting argue that by immobilizing an individual’s car, you are withholding a person’s property. According to article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. On that night, I was a 17-year-old girl stranded in downtown because I couldn’t pay a parking fee. Would you consider those $5 arbitrary? I sure would.

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Girl’s $75 can be spent on much cuter pair of boots